Is There a Downside to Instant Electronic Communications?

Like so many folks these days, I have an iPhone and rely on it heavily for communications with friends, weather info for biking, map info for navigating, etc. If you have a smart phone I’m sure  you have your own myriad uses.

The reason I am bringing this up is that I stumbled across a fascinating item in the New York Times from late March.

You can read the entire piece at the link, but here are some of the highlights that particularly touched me. It was titled Your Phone vs. Your Heart. Interesting dichotomy.

I have written at least 10 posts on the value and benefits of positive psychology. If you want a look just type in positive psychology into the search box at the right and click on search.

Barbara Fredrickson wrote the NYT piece. In case you aren’t familiar with her, she wrote Positivity, one of the bibles of positive psychology as well as Love 2.0: How our supreme emotion affects everything we feel, think, do and become.

In the piece Fredrickson says that while we enjoy the convenience of electronic access, we should be more aware of the costs. She and colleagues have found that our smart phones may be taking a toll on “our biological capacity to connect with other people.”

“Our ingrained habits change us. Neurons that fire together, wire together, neuroscientists like to say, reflecting the increasing evidence that experiences leave imprints on our neural pathways…”

She asks how much time each of us typically spends with others and how connected and attuned to them do we feel.

She gets into neuroscience in her explanation which I will leave for you to read in the NYT piece. I do want to quote one paragraph though because she notes the importance of the biological law of use it or lose it which I have written about so many times in relation to exercise.

“In short, the more attuned to others you become, the healthier you become, and vice versa. This mutual influence also explains how a lack of positive social contact diminishes people. Your heart’s capacity for friendship also obeys the biological law of “use it or lose it.” If you don’t regularly exercise your ability to connect face to face, you’ll eventually find yourself lacking some of the basic biological capacity to do so.”

She concludes by suggesting that the next time you see a friend immersed in their screen, texting, emailing, etc., “extend a hand and invite him back to the world of real social encounters. You’ll not only build up his health and empathic skills, but yours as well. Friends don’t let friends lose their capacity for humanity.”

So take the old phrase Reach out and touch someone literally.


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Filed under Positive Psychology, smart phones

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